Supreme Court won’t block student debt relief program: NPR

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Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Amy Coney Barrett speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation in Simi Valley, California on April 4, 2022.

Damien Dovarganes/AP


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Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Amy Coney Barrett speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation in Simi Valley, California on April 4, 2022.

Damien Dovarganes/AP

The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to block the rollout of the Biden administration’s student debt relief plan, allowing the program to go ahead — at least for now. Loan forgiveness is expected to begin as early as Sunday.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who is assigned to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, is the one who received the emergency request. Presumably, the other judges of the court agreed with his decision.

Hours after the Supreme Court action, another closely watched challenge to the program, this one brought by six GOP-led states, was dismissed in a federal district court in Missouri.

The emergency Supreme Court request was made by the Brown County Taxpayers Association, a Wisconsin organization of about 100 taxpayers and business owners that advocates for conservative economic policy.

Generally, the organization argues that the US Department of Education is acting outside of its administrative authority in canceling student loans. The Ministry of Education is vested with the authority to administer various loan programs but cannot, according to the plaintiffs, cancel loans “unilaterally[ly]. That power, they say, belongs to Congress.

This case will continue in the Seventh Circuit, where it is being heard on appeal. A federal district court judge dismissed the lawsuit earlier this month, on the grounds that the taxpayer group lacked “standing.” In short, the challengers, quite simply as taxpayers, could not demonstrate bodily harm as is required to bring a lawsuit. In 2007, the Supreme Court said that “if every federal taxpayer could sue to challenge any government expenditure, the federal courts would cease to function as courts and function as general complaints offices.”

The Biden administration announced its student loan relief package in August, citing the rising cost of college education and the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief package is for low- and middle-income people and includes up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 for non-Pell Grant recipients. Loan forgiveness is only part of a broader debt relief package; the plan also includes reducing monthly payments on undergraduate loans and tackling the rising cost of college education.

The plan was opposed by several other conservative organizations. These lawsuits spill over into various lower courts, though they may encounter similar difficulties in showing specific harm to stay alive.

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